Rick Porcello had been looking better lately, and while things haven’t been perfect his command has been noticeably improved and he’s kept his team in games. He took a step back on Tuesday against perhaps the worst team in baseball against whom you can take a step back. He got through four innings having only allowed three runs, which was lucky given the way he was pitching. He did not stay lucky in the fifth, giving up three more without recording an out and leaving the game. The offense struggled to get going in the first four innings, too. To their credit, they did turn it around. The bullpen also did extremely well, too, tossing five scoreless innings. In the end, the six-run hole was too much to overcome.
The Red Sox were riding high heading into this week as they returned to Fenway. After a big trip out to the west coast, the team returned home for a massive week of baseball against two division leaders against the Twins and Yankees. If they were going to make a statement and put themselves back — really back — the playoff chase, this was going to be the time.
For the first of the three-game set, they sent Rick Porcello out to the mound. Though it’s been a largely disappointing year for the righty, he had been looking better of late and was looking to keep that going here. It was a major test for him against the most powerful lineup in the game, but Minnesota has also been a team against whom he’s had success in the recent past. That included earlier this year, too, in arguably his best outing of the season.
Unfortunately, a repeat performance wasn’t in the cards for the righty on Tuesday night. It was fairly clear right from the beginning that he did not have his command as he was leaving an awful lot of pitches over the middle of the plate. Sooner or later, that is going to come back to bite you against this Twins team.
Her control was way off in the first inning, as he hit the first batter he faced before walking the third. Just like that, the Twins had two batters on with just one out. Porcello got a huge strikeout right after that and it looked like he might escape when he got to a 1-2 count against Miguel Sanó. He couldn’t finish it off, though, as the Twins third baseman put a single into left field to bring home Minnesota’s first run of the game.
After working around a two-out walk for a scoreless second, Porcello found himself in more trouble for the third. Jorge Polanco started that one off with a base hit before Luis Arraez smacked a one-out double, putting a pair in scoring position. Once again, Porcello got a big strikeout to almost avoid giving in the run, but Jake Cave had other ideas. The Red Sox righty left a fastball right over the plate middle-in, and Cave blasted it way out to center field for a two-run triple, and the Twins had a 3-0 lead.
Porcello then had a scoreless fourth, but he had gotten away with some bad pitches in that inning as well. Despite all of that, Alex Cora decided to stick with the righty for a fifth. He’d regret that. It took no time at all for Minnesota to add to their lead here, as Nelson Cruz got a hanging slider and hit a solo home run out to center field. After Arraez got a base hit, Sanó came up and hit the back-breaker. Porcello left him a fastball up in the zone and Sanó blasted one of the farthest home runs you’ll see out to center field at Fenway, putting it into the camera well for a two-run shot. That would be the end of Porcello’s night, with six runs on the board against him without recording an out in the fifth.
On the plus side, the bullpen did pick up after him. Josh Taylor and Brian Johnson combined to finish off that inning, and while they were far from perfect and both looked fatigued no runs crossed the plate.
As for the offense, well, they struggled mightily for the first half of this game. The Twins used an opener in Randy Dobnak, who tossed an easy, scoreless first inning. Lewis Thorpe came on after that, but the fortunes didn’t change for Boston. They did get a runner on second to lead off the second inning, but no runs would cross the plate.
That was the case all the way into the bottom of the fifth, after the Twins had extended their lead to 6-0. At this point, the bats finally came alive. It got started with a Mitch Moreland walk, which was immediately followed by a Christian Vázquez single. After a wild pitch moved each runner up, Brock Holt brought one run home on a ground out. The rally would continue when Jackie Bradley Jr. drew a walk of is own. Rafael Devers would come up with two on and two out, and he did what he’s done all year. The breakout star smashed a three-run shot over the top of Pesky’s Pole. Just like that, the Red Sox were within two.
The bullpen continued to do the job from there. Marcus Walden would give up just a two-out walk in the sixth before Darwinzon Hernandez dominated in the seventh as he struck out the side.
As for the offense, they went down quietly in the sixth before threatening in the seventh. There, after a couple of quick outs Bradley came through with a big ground rule double. He’d move over to third on a wild pitch before Mookie Betts drew a walk. Suddenly, Devers was up at the plate again, this time representing the go-ahead run. He couldn’t come through twice, though. Instead, he hit a pop up out to left field to leave the runners and keep the score at 6-4.
Andrew Cashner then continued his dominance out of the bullpen with a perfect eighth, bringing the middle of the order to the plate for the Sox in the bottom of the inning. They got two quick outs to start that inning in disappointing fashion, and then the Twins turned to left-handed closer Taylor Rogers with Andrew Benintendi coming up. The Red Sox left fielder has looked much better against lefties this year, and that continued here when he smoked a solo homer the other way out to left field, bringing the Red Sox to within one. They’d then get another runner on base when Moreland was hit by a pitch, giving Vázquez a chance at a clutch hit. He couldn’t come through, putting forth a tough at bat but ultimately ending it with a strikeout to end the inning with Boston trailing 6-5.
Brandon Workman then came on for a perfect ninth, giving the Red Sox one more chance. Brock Holt got it started with a base hit, and then Marco Hernández came in to pinch run. He was moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt from Gorkys Hernández before Betts grounded out. That left it up to Devers against the lefty with the tying run in scoring position. He didn’t get it done, striking out to end the game.
The Red Sox will look to rebound from this one on Wednesday with Eduardo Rodriguez taking on José Berríos. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.